Tricky Dick forty years later

Sino-US relations: 40th anniversary

Illustration by Li Rui, China Global Times, 2-26-12


Richard Nixon did not leave the presidency with a very good reputation; he might have done some very good things, but in the end, it was Watergate and corruption for which he is best remembered.  However, in China that is not true.  In China, Nixon stands above all American presidents.  Nixon went to China forty years ago this week – the trip marked a major change in American policy toward China – a change that has pretty much survived until recently.  In was a significant change, that was at the end of the Vietnam era; a time where we vowed to fight China and communism any place and every place it raised its ugly head.  It was just a few months before the Watergate scandal hit the headlines and just a year before we left Vietnam.  Tricky Dick, as we called him, had only a brief moment in history before his career started to spiral downwards out of control, but he used the time well, at least according to the Chinese.  For them Nixon was not a criminal, but a giant with vision and courage and they lament his loss.  In the minds and pens of the Chinese, the Obama policy is reverting back to earlier eras.  They describe the current policy as one of mistrust, hardline containment and fear – just like in the post-World War Two and Vietnam eras.

It is no secret that we have become more than a little concerned about the growing financial power and influence of China. Currently, China is in the process of trying to expand its role in Asia, as are we.  China is treating Asia in much the same way we have always treated Central and South America – as a naturally falling within China’s sphere of influence and one crucial to its security.  We on the other hand, see China’s attempt to expand its influence as a threat to our interests and security.  Our view is not unlike the way we saw the old Soviet Russia or the first few years of the existence of Communist China, that is before Nixon.  Our view is of course offensive to the Chinese.

Today, the Chinese are remembering and honoring Richard Nixon and his willingness to cooperate and let go of some of the prejudices and fears of previous administrations.  I am sure we remember too, only I haven’t seen an official acknowledgment or any editorials on the subject, have you?


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February 2012
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